Insight (or Mindfulness) Meditation is a path to freedom from suffering. That suffering originates in the addictive quality of the mind and our habitual tendency to grasp at pleasure and push away pain. All addictions stem from these roots.
Mindfulness also offers a spiritual and psychological process of transformation that has proven to be a most effective treatment for our human addictions to thinking and all the suffering we create with the mind. And it’s one of the most potent tools there is for recovering our original wholeness, our natural fullness.
Recently, I came to recognize something I said was delivered without the clarity intended, so here goes:
“Loving Kindness” sometimes translated as Universal Love (Metta in Pali), is an integral part of and is an important concept that is put into practice in the Buddhist teaching. It is usually presented in systematic ways to train the heart to attain happiness. This is an essential part of the entirety of the Dhamma, and at some point, one is expected to be fully able to embrace this concept. What we call love, friendliness, compassion, gratitude and joy, are all words that fall under the umbrella of Metta, which Buddhists use to describe this specific vehicle of learning.
More importantly, once Metta is truly cultivated within, it is not to be embraced alone, but shared with others. We would all agree that the world could benefit from a whole lot more loving-kindness, yes?
While discussing this important topic, my words have carried with them a sincere element of caution, rather than negation.
The caution I suggest, however, lies with trying to discover Metta before we actually learn to quiet the mind; before we are actually able to cultivate clear, stable nonjudgmental awareness; before we are truly able to be Mindful.
The nature of mind falls under two categories: the inside or essence, and the outside or appearance. Our essence is freedom, liberation, mindfulness, equanimity. Our appearance is our projections, and they are not real.
Trying to discover something outside and draw it inside is often a trap, because when we jump to do the “warm and fuzzy” stuff, without getting a handle on our own inner workings and defaults, what often shows up is a thickened, shiny patina of behavior patterns that provides concealment of the malicious truths within.
Acariya Maha Boowa, a Thai Forest teacher, says it this way: “When our hearts never have time to rest and attain calm, they are not fundamentally different from other animals. But when our hearts rest, relax and receive training, we will be able to see the harmful affects of thinking and imagining, and turbulence they cause the heart. Then we will see the value of a calm heart. Once we have attained a state of mental calm, we will have reached the first stage of Dhamma which will lead us steadily onwards.”
It’s essential for our spiritual practice not only feel good, but to, at the same time, rout out the appearance and negative thinking that often invades our psyche causing us to wander aimlessly in the cesspool of victim hood potentiality.
Practice concentration, open awareness so first the heart can be still. This first stage he calls ‘mental calm” is Mindfulness which then leads us steadily onward toward the second, called Metta.